RTW Day 43 - TranzAlpine Railway

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March 30th 2018
Published: March 30th 2018
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I have been looking forward to today. We are taking the TranzAlpine train - a 150 mile coast to coast journey through the Southern Alps to Christchurch.

Time to pack. We don’t have much stuff; there are 15 occasions on this trip when we are restricted to one case and one piece of hand luggage. But in between, it seems to grow and fill every available space.

Our train is at 2 pm, so we have 4 hours to kill in Greymouth. This would be a challenge on a normal day, but today is Good Friday. LP lists two things to do and they’re both shut. Greymouth made its wealth from coal mining but the mines are closed now so it’s rather a sorry place. We head for Coal Heritage Park. There are a selection of coal wagons and mining equipment, a drill bit sculpture and a memorial to those who died in mining accidents. After an hour, we have exhausted all that the town has to offer and retreat to McDonald’s for free WiFi.

After lunch we head for the station to board our train on what is billed as one of the great railway journeys of the world. It’s quite spectacular: from the west coast, along rivers, past lakes, parallel to the Alpine Fault, up into the mountains and down through the Canterbury Plains. You can enjoy the scenery from the comfort of your seat or an open viewing platform.

Least favourite part is an 8.5 km mountain tunnel. It takes some preparation. We have to stop to add extra engines, we are locked into our carriages and the buffet is closed because the staff have ‘other duties’ to attend to. It’s a nerve racking few minutes, tunnelling through a mountain in an area renowned for its earthquakes, but we make it without event.

On the other side, at Arthur’s Pass we are allowed off the train briefly. We are now in the Alps, 920 m above sea level. We descend through sheep and cattle stations, passing dozens of bridges and viaducts towards Canterbury. It’s awesome scenery but my attempts at photography are a failure. Most of my pictures are blurred and almost all contain a telegraph pole and/or a Chinese tourist who has launched themself in front of me at the opportune moment.

I return from the viewing carriage to find the old man experimenting with taking photos of his reflection in the window so that there are two of him in one shot.

We reach Christchurch by 7 pm and check into an airport hotel. Our NZ adventure is at an end. Tomorrow we fly to Australia.

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